Eventually only three boats made it to the cruise, three others had to pull out due to unforeseen commitments. This left SDF, Olmeto and Skybird, the only three that made the annual seafood pilgrimage to Tanjung Piayu this year. This year’s cruise also coincides with Singapore’s National Day celebration, that too added to the small numbers that went.
Just a little recap for those who don’t know about Tanjung Piayu. Located at the South Eastern corner of Batam Island, Piayu houses a small fishing kampong with a few seafood restaurants along the coastline. It has now become a very popular seafood haunt for the locals.
I have done this trip umpteen times but what made this trip a little special for me was that I did it single handed. Though I’ve done the crossing to Nongsa alone on my other two boats, this trip was different as I would be out of the comfort of Nongsa Point Marina on my own. I know that others have done much longer trips on the own and survived, others have circumnavigated the world without much fanfare. So, what’s so special about a short trip to Tanjung Piayu, I’m doing it solo.
This is for the benefit of those who have not yet made a trip out of Singapore or for those who, like me, have thought about doing solo sailing but have not come to it yet.
Preparations. Getting the boat ready for any trip is of the utmost importance. I had a few issues on my boat which had to be fixed before I could go. In brief; I had to get my steering fixed as it was too stiff, had the auto-pilot changed due to a faulty drive-motor, had to get the wiring done on the alternator as it wasn’t charging the batteries, had to change the navigation lights and re-wire due to corrosion.
Other checks which I did was to ensure that all necessary electronics worked; chart plotter, AIS, VHF, general lighting plus water, fuel and some food stuff.
The day came for me to set off, I had to ensure that the basic safety items were within reach of me. I had the PFD with me and ready for use, shoes with good grip, a handheld VHF and my documents in a dry bag. Having done the trip I now realise that it would be good to have storage bags within the cockpit area. All loose items should be stored away.
My little adventure began as I left the clubs jetty, I decided to motor-sail with just the headsail until after I cleared immigration. The immigration boat came very quickly, unfortunately, I could not hand the documents over as the waters were extremely choppy. I only managed it after about 20 minutes of bobbing about. My plan was to put up the mainsail to do the crossing, however, as the conditions were too choppy for me to get the mains up, I decided to continue to NPM with only the headsail. The crossing took much longer as the wind, wave and tide were all against me and coming from the direction of Nongsa.
I would also like to suggest that you switch to channel 16 after you have done the immigration clearance. You would then be able to listen to marine traffic and be contactable as I had experienced. The Police Coast Guard called to check on my next port pf call. They must be wondering what I was doing as I taking a long time to make my way towards the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme – shipping channel). Well I thought that it was cool, having a chat with the coast guard. Cheers! to the guys in blue.
As I had mentioned, the incoming tide was very strong and I was swept further off course even as I motor-sailed. The usual welcome and berthing support from NPM staff were always much appreciated. As I approached my berth, I found myself in familiar company; Katrianne and Windancer. After settling down and having my first beer of the day, the rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning the boat. Dinner was spent with my good friends Samsi from the Riau Sailing Club and Fazdly from XSP and not forgetting Prakash, who I had a beer with earlier.
The first thing to do on the morning of the 9th August was to decorate the boat with some flags and streamers to mark Singapore’s National Day, but at the same time I didn’t want to be too loud about it. Took a shower and put on a T-shirt designed for National Day, just to have the patriotic feel. Happy Birthday Singapore. By early afternoon, SDF, Olmeto and Simba had arrived. After clearing CIQP, we each went about doing our own things but met at Skybird for a sundowner with a hope of catching some fireworks from across the channel but unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything. An on the spot decision was made and dinner was at Setia Budi, a nearby seafood restaurant. We had an early night as we planned to leave for Piayu early.
Next morning came and by 10.30am we were off to Tanjung Piayu, this is where my little adventure begins. Did a pre-departure check to ensure that I didn’t missed out anything. Came out of the marina and hoping for some calm waters but it was quite choppy and the winds were up to 15 knots. This made putting up the mainsails a little challenging. I wasn’t going to let the chops deter me so I hoisted the mains and decided to put in two reefs and half furled the genoa and even with that I was still doing an average of 5 knots. After about half an hour into the sail, I thought of shaking of the 2nd reef but the conditions were still bumpy so I decided to leave the 2nd on. Again, the wind and tide were against me so I had to put in a few tacks before turning the top corner of Batam to go down the channel towards Tanjung Piayu. Having reached the top corner, the conditions were still choppy and the wind and tide against me so I had to sail much further towards Bintan before putting in a tack. At this point it was much easier sailing as I could sit on a port tack for a much longer distant.
With the wind and wave coming from the front, the auto-pilot had problems holding the course so I manually sailed most of the way, accept when I had to go down to get a drink and the apples which became my meal for the day. I really enjoyed the 5 hours sailing solo. As mentioned, I know of members who had made longer trips and to faraway places and what I have done is nothing big to brag about but to me it was an achievement.
Olmeto was already anchored off Pulau Awi but I decided to proceed to Piayu. Dropped the hook in the channel at Tanjung Piayu and allowed the anchor to set, I let out 20m of chain and about 10m of rope. While waiting, I popped my first beer for the day, a self-congratulatory drink for me. When I was satisfied that it was holding, I proceeded to tie the rope to the cleat rather than leaving the load to the windlass.
Becoming complacent. What happened to safety, gloves on when working with anchors and rode.
I held onto the rope as I needed to let out some so that I could tie it down onto the cleat. Without doing a safety check, I hit the button and to my horror my fingers were pulled into the windlass, trapping my middle, fourth and little pinky of my right hand. My fingers were wedged in tight, fortunately for me it wasn’t the chain section. Lost for a few seconds, I just stared at my fingers before I realized what I had done. Reaching for the controller, I then hit the down button and my fingers rolled out free. Oh, it hurt so much. Blood flowed and I quickly got to the wash basin and put my fingers under running water, grabbed a towel and applied pressure onto the wound.
By then, SDF and Olmeto were both anchored off Pulau Awi, hoping to catch some swim time. I wanted to call them for assistance but decided not to because I heard on the radio that SDF had windlass issues and all 80m of chain had been let out. I said to myself, poor Derek, he would have to physically pull in 80m of chain, which he eventually did. SDF finally got things sorted and came into the channel. Derek called and asked as I had earlier told him that I had hurt myself. Once anchored, he came over in his dinghy with his first-aid kit and two cans of iced-cold pain killer. What a man, thanks Derek.
With the excitement of the day gone by, we met at the Love Seafood Restaurant for dinner. Thanks, this time to Jon who brought his First-aid kit which had the proper anti-septic solutions, Lucy and Allie played nurse and helped dressed my wounds. The food, as usual, was good and with our bellies filled, we made our way back to our respective boat for a quite evening, so we thought. The loud speakers came alive and some kind of religious chants were blasted across the whole area. I doubt that anyone had any sleep that night. We would probably need to reconsider our timing for the next pilgrimage to Piayu.
The excitement didn’t end there for me, at about 5am I heard some light scratching sound coming from under. Quickly got on deck to inspect and to my dismay, I realised that the breeze had pushed me towards the little island and I am now sitting in the mud. Checked the water depth at the bow and looked like I was still in deep waters but when I got to the stern, I saw that I only had about a foot if water under my stern. I guessed that I must be sitting at the edge of the drop-off. I went into the cabin, turned on the lights and thought of my next course of action.
First thought was to start the engine and maybe throttle my way out but as I was sitting in mud, the props would probably been in the mud and trapped and a very high possibility of sucking in mud into the cooling system. The breeze was nice then, so the next plan was to try to shake myself loose. So, for the next half hour or so, I backed and release the headsail causing the bow to swing from left to right. This action had helped to wriggle the keel out of the soft mud and thankfully I was freed. Once cleared, I started the engine, retrieved the anchor and reset my position. Lesson learned, do not push the panic button. Size up the situation and put in a plan. But if all fails….scream for…… HELP!!!!!
Lucy and Alison, from SDF, had earlier offered to help me sail Skybird back to NPM because of my injury. And, it would have been so much easier too but I decided that I just needed to complete my little solo adventure. Also, as they were not on my crew list, I thought that it would be safer if they didn’t come onboard. Would have been hard to explain if we were stopped. Thanks, girls, for the thought, much appreciate. The breeze was nice and with one reef in, it was a beautiful reach to NPM. Better prepared this time, I had bacon sandwiches which I made earlier and kept it cool in the ice chest, so lunch was much better and I still had an apple to go along. I took the most direct course to the top corner, this put me on a very broad reach and I doing a comfortable 4 to 5 knots. But after heading up around the corner, the wind angle changed and now cruising nicely between 6 to 7 plus knots. Sweet sailing.
After tying down at the marina, the rest of the evening was rather routine. Derek treated his family to Japanese at Turi Beach. After dinner I had few drinks with Jon at the marina bar before calling it a night.
The next morning was routine again, breakfast, collect documents and by 10.30am we were off towards CSC. This time immigration took much longer but all was well. As mentioned, others had done much more but this trip was special to me as it may mark more solo trips with just Skybird and I.
Thanks to SDF and Olmeto; good company make good trip.